Andrew Hoy leads on Anona Young homebred, 13 yr Mr Pracatan, having produced the only sub 40 score – 39.3 – ahead of his compatriot Clayton Fredericks (Ben a Long Time) who is now tied in second place with Piia Pantsu. Andrew said: “When I first got Mr Pracatan in 2001, I would never have predicted that I would take him to the Olympics or be in the lead here on a mark of 39 but he’s so genuine and always does his best at whatever you ask him.”

Mr Pracatan should be well suited to tomorrow’s twisting, accuracy-testing cross-country course as he is an obedient horse. “He and I have formed a very trusting partnership,” said Andrew. “He used to be hesitant with people, and found it difficult to believe in himself but after he had a bad fall three years ago we have spent time with him building his confidence he has changed a great deal.”

Clayton also scored a personal best on the much admired Ben Along Time, a ten-year-old bred Cavalier owned by Hong Kong based Peta and Edwin McAuley. Having worked with the horse since it was a four-year-old, Clayton rates Ben Along Time as his best chance of achieving a place on the Australian team. “I’ve been waiting 12 years to get on the team, he said. “Aachen [2006 World Games] is my aim. He’s a super horse who has been on the cusp of doing great things for a while but has often been affected by tension. We’ve had training with Jane Bredin [former Olympic dressage rider] which has helped greatly.”

German riders Simone Dietermann (Flambau H) and Niccole Grimm (Gandus) are fourth and sixth with Magnus Gällerdal best of the home side in fifth on his Europe champ team horse Keymaster.

As expected, William Fox Pitt, is best of the British riders, in seventh place on Ballincoola, with a mark of 46.5. Beanie Hughes is still in touch with the leaders in 11th.

Dressage is not Ballincoola’s best phase, but William was mildly disappointed with his rather average performance. However, this competition is unlikely to be decided on the dressage as the cross country course contains plenty of questions. “It is a test of harmony between horse and rider,” said William, who has the additional excitement of the imminent birth of his first child.
“It’s a testing and confusing course and you need to be on the same wavelength as your horse.”

British team manger Yogi Breisner described the twisting course as “Tricky rather than big. Riders will have to concentrate, but that’s the norm with modern day courses, and they’re used to narrow fences nowadays. I don’t think it’ll be easy at all especially getting the optimum times.”

The particularly compact nature of the event means that the cross country switches back and forth against a backdrop of sea and city skyscrapers with two trips through the water complex. A step and bank bounce combination to a narrow brush at fence six and three graffiti adorned narrow fences on undulating grounds at fences 18, 19 and 20 have been highlighted as particularly exacting. On the request of riders, fence 19 has been re-sited and dug in deeper into he ground to lower its profile. “It’ll be interested to see how horses read this,” said Andrew Hoy. “Fence 6 is also a true test for a World Cup Final and the water jump will have water sprayed around it and we don’t know how horses will react to that.” He added: “There’s a lot to jump and anything could happen.”